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Transcription of Media Briefing by Secretary (EAST) on President's upcoming visit to Croatia, Bolivia & Chile

March 23, 2019

Official Spokesperson: Namaskar! Good afternoon once again!

We are going to have a special briefing on the visit of Rashtrapatiji to three countries starting next week to Croatia, Bolivia and Chile. I have with me the Secretary (East), I also have the Press Secretary to the President and the two joint secretaries who look after that region. Dr Anju Kumar, Joint Secretary (Central Europe) and Mr G.V.Srinivas who looks after Latin American countries. After the initial remarks by Secretary (East) I will request the Press Secretary to give his comments and then we remove on to the question-and- answer session. Ma’am, the floor is yours.

Secretary (EAST) : Good Afternoon! Rashtrapatiji will be visiting Croatia from 25 to 28 March, Bolivia from 28th to 30th March and Chile from 30th March to 2nd April. Rashtrapatiji will be in Croatia, as I stated from 25 to 28 March and on the first-ever visit of a head of state from India. We had one visit from the Croatian side. The president of Croatia Mesic visited India in 2002. So this is a high-level visit taking place between the two countries after 17 years.

Croatia is an important Central European country from the point of view of its geo-strategic location, membership of the European Union and the NATO, as well as being a significant Gateway to Europe through the Adriatic coastline.

Their achievement of reaching the finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, won them International acclaim and I think many in India had watched that match also.

India-Croatian relations are characterized by historical connections links between India and Croatia dating back to the 16th century. Croatian people have a deep interest in India. The Indology department in the University of Zagreb which is a very old University in Croatia, that has existed over six decades and an ICCR Hindi chair was set up a decade ago.

After the independence of Croatia in 1991, there has been exchange of ministerial-level visits between NATO countries. The president of Croatia visited in 2002, from our side we had a visit by the vice president, Shri. Hamid Ansari in June 2010. Our minister of Commerce visited Croatia in February 2018, when a bilateral economic cooperation agreement was signed. Their foreign minister was in India in October 2018. The bilateral relations between India and Croatia are modest at around 200 million US Dollars in 2017. But there is good scope for trade in sectors like textile, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, engineering goods, food processing among others. Croatia has a sound scientific and technological base in niche sectors, such as shipbuilding, vaccines, renewable energy and defence. Indian companies are present in Croatia in pharmaceutical, renewable energy and Information Technology sectors. There is scope for investments in development of Port infrastructure. A business delegation from diverse sector will be in Croatia for the India-Croatia Business Forum to help to promote business collaboration between our two countries and that Forum will take place in the presence of Rashtrapatiji during his visit.

The Rashtrapatiji will arrive in Croatia in the afternoon of 25th March 2019. Next day, he will have interactions with the President of Croatia and the Prime Minister of Croatia. He will have one to one and delegation level talks. He will address the Indian community and Croatian friends of India. The next day the two Presidents, Rashtrapatiji and his counterpart will address the India-Croatia business forum meeting. Thereafter Rashtrapati will deliver a speech at the University of Zagreb. The other elements of the programme will include laying a wreath at Mirogoj Cemetery in front of Voice of the Croatian victims- the wall of pain memorial.

Rashtrapatiji will then proceed to visit two Latin American countries and his visit to the region is a part of India’s growing engagement with countries in Latin America. Rashtrapati will be visiting Bolivia from 28th to 30th March’2019. This is the first ever high-level visit between the two countries since the establishment of diplomatic relations.

India and Bolivia are ancient civilizations with rich and varied cultures. Our bilateral relations are warm and friendly, underpinned with abundant goodwill and the desire to forge closer cooperation in areas of mutual interest. Our interactions between the two countries so far have been at ministerial levels or at meetings on the sidelines of regional and multilateral events. The Prime Minister had met the Bolivian President Evo Morales on the margins of the BRICS summit in Brazil in 2014. The EAM had met her Bolivian counterpart on the margins of UNGA in last September.

Bolivia is a landlocked country, it is rich in mineral resources. It has large deposits of lithium, gold, silver and gas reserves. Bolivia’s lithium and our needs for eMobility and eStorage provides natural synergies. A delegation of companies had visited and has had discussions with Bolivian companies and we also see that as Bolivia would embark on industrialization of its resources, India could be a partner that could provide know-how technology and skills. Some of our companies are already in Bolivia largely in sectors of IT and even in vehicles we have companies, who are in like, TATA motors, Bajaj Auto, Mahindra & Mahindra, they have business links in Bolivia.

Our trades have grown very significantly if you look at the last financial year 2017-2018, the trade grew by 205% to reach US $ 772 Million. India has emerged as a major export destination for Bolivia and Bolivia is India's ninth largest trading partner in Latin America and the Caribbean region. Indian imports are $ 667 million and our exports are $105 million. Our main exports are vehicles and pharmaceutical products. We also provide capacity building support to prepare Bolivia and slots even in IT as well as training of diplomats.

Rashtrapatiji’s programme in Bolivia would start with restricted and delegation level talks with the president of Bolivia Evo Morales. He will participate in India-Bolivia business forum meeting. He would interact with the students and deliver an address at the Universidad Autonoma Gabriel Rene Moreno, which is the largest University in Bolivia and the most important centre of learning, which was established in 1880.

Rashtrapatiji will also be interacting with the Indian community there, which is small but nevertheless an important interaction for Rashtrapatiji.

From Bolivia, Rashtrapatiji would be going to Chile on the 30th of March. This visit to Chile is taking place as our two countries are celebrating 70 years of our diplomatic relations. Our relations are warm with a commonality of view on a range of issues. Our both countries interact with each other bilaterally and at a multilateral fora. We have similar views on many issues, whether its climate change, renewable energy and on expansion and reform of the UN security council.

In the past, we have had regular interactions with Chile. In the 60th year of establishment of diplomatic relations, the president of Chile was here in India and recently, in December last year the Prime Minister of Chile Sebastian Pinera on the sidelines of G20 meeting in Buenos Aires. Again like Bolivia, Chile has a huge base of natural resources which includes copper, tin, forest resources. It has control of a large part of Antarctica and has a very large maritime boundary also.

It is a country which has engaged extensively with the outside world. It has free trade agreements with a large number of countries and regions and we ourselves have a preferential trade agreement with Chile. It was expanded in the year 2017 and our trade has been growing with Chile. It is today the sixth largest trading partner of India in the LAC region and we continue, we also engage Chile as a platform to discuss our relations with other Latin-American countries. Our Country's Minister of State Dr.V.K.Singh was in Chile last October to attend the India-LAC business forum.

Our imports are about 2 billion US$, largely copper, iodine, wood pulp and molybdenum. Our exports are $ 764 million and mainly vehicles and pharmaceutical products.

In various investments between the two countries, we have Indian investments about $ 216 million while Chile has invested about $ 105 million. Therefore we are looking at how to grow trade and economic relations and importance during Rashtrapatiji’s visit. Chile has also joined in the International Solar Alliance, showing its commitment to renewable energy so that renewable energy is also a part of the discussions between our two countries.

Rashtrapatiji will be interacting with the students and the academic community during his visit to Chile. Currently there about, he would also be interacting with the Indian Community, which is about three thousand, about half and half Indian nationals and people of Indian origin.

If, I go through the programme of Rashtrapatiji, he would have restricted and delegation level talks with the president of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, he would interact with the students and deliver an address at the University of Chile and the University of Chile, they had built a nano-satellite and in 2017 the satellite was launched by an Indian space vehicle. Rashtrapatiji will participate in the India-Chile business meetings and interact with the Indian community as well. Our discussions with Chile would be focused on, as I said, strengthening relations and in particular economic relations and trade and investment ties.

So you can see that Rashtrapatiji’s visit to these three countries has a full agenda. We would be having political interactions, business and economic interactions. There would be exchanges with the community as well as with the young students and the youth. We hope that Rashtrapatiji’s visit will reinvigorate our bilateral ties and provide new directions to our relationship with these three countries. Before I end, I could say that when Rashtrapatiji is returning back he will make a transit halt in South Africa in Cape Town and he would be using that occasion to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela and to interact with the Indian community. So I would stop here.

Official Spokesperson: I now give the floor to the Press secretary to the president Shri Ashok Mallik

Press Secretary: Thank you!Good afternoon friends!

After the very comprehensive briefing by the Secretary (East) there is very little I can add. I would like to leave you with some numbers about Rashtrapatiji’s visit. This is the 9th state visit of President Kovind and the first visit in the calendar year 2019. It is the 5th visit of his second year of his presidency, which began in July last year. So 9th overall, fifth in the 2nd year and first in the calendar year 2019. He has so far visited 17 countries, with this visit he would visit 20 countries. This is as secretary explained, the first visit by President of India to Croatia and to Bolivia.It is the 3rd visit by the president of India to Chile.

This is the 2nd time President Kovind would be visiting South America. In June last year, he has visited Suriname. This year, of course, he is visiting Chile and Bolivia. Santa Cruz in Bolivia and subsequently Santiago in Chile would represent the furthest President Kovind has travelled as President of India. Santiago is about 17000 km from New Delhi. In all three countries as the secretary explained the President will address business events as well as University audiences. Business delegations and business promotion is a very important part of this visit. The visit is diplomatically exciting and full of opportunities. It is also a logistical challenge and it includes two flights that are of 13 hours, one flight that is of 11 hours and one flight that is of 10 hours. If you take the entire flying time the President Kovind will be flying for 50 hours and 40 minutes, which tells you something about the visit. I would like to stop here and would be happy to answer any questions.

Official Spokesperson: Thank you Ashok! I now open the floor to questions.

QUESTION: My question is on Chile. Early last decade India supplied a few helicopters to Chile. Now are you contemplating any fresh defence cooperation agreement to revive that sort of cooperation?

ANSWER: We do have a defence agreement with Chile. In fact a delegation has just visited Chile recently. They have just come back. So defence engagement will be part of dialogue during Rashtrapatiji’s talks when he is in Chile.

QUESTION: Ma’am, if you could tell us, how many MOU’s are expected to be signed between India and Bolivia and is the Government is planning to open an embassy in Bolivia because there is no embassy there?

ANSWER: The discussions are ongoing, so once the discussions have taken place between the two presidents, we will let you know the agreements that are signed. As far as opening an embassy, it is very much something which is on the agenda and we will take it.

Official Spokesperson: Any other question on any other aspect of the visit?

QUESTION: During the president’s visit, do the CII, FICCI and other business delegations will accompany?

ANSWER: Yes, there will be business delegations, which will be in all the three countries during Rashtrapatiji’s visit. About 20 plus members will be there. Croatia will be 35 and then 20 and 30 in the other two countries.

QUESTION: In Chile there was some talks about cutting down the duties on certain items. Will that be discussed during the talks?

ANSWER: We do have, as I said a preferential trade agreement with Chile. There are issues which are there regarding some of the market access issues and tariffs and they would of course when you take over the view of the relationships, these issues will come up and they form a part of bilateral agenda with that country.

QUESTION: He is going to European countries and he has been to other European countries as well specifically in Southern Europe and Central Europe. What does it mean, I mean in the visit by the President, the growing engagement with these countries, especially in Southern Europe and Central Europe?

ANSWER: See, India’s engagement with the world is increasing and as a part of that increased engagement, we feel that Rashtrapatiji’s visits do give a profile to the relationship and these visits of Rashtrapatiji build the relationship and have added great depth, dimensions to our relations with these countries.

QUESTION: Chile has already launched one of it’s mini satellites from India, so is Croatia planning and if Bolivia is also talking anything on space?

ANSWER: With Chile we have space cooperation and would be discussed. With Bolivia, we will explore the possibilities, as of now there is no cooperation on space side with Bolivia. But we will explore possibilities and opportunities and I am sure that with Croatia also, we can always explore but as of now, with other two we do not have ongoing but the exploration will be there.

QUESTION: Besides Chile, with Croatia and Bolivia, will also you will be having discussions on defence engagements?

ANSWER: See, the high level visits are opportunities to really see the whole gambit and see where there is a possibility of cooperation. I won’t go in to, what will come up during the discussions but when you review the whole relationship, there could be issues,that come up and we will take it during the discussions.

Official Spokesperson: This concludes the special briefing on the visit of respected Rashtrapatiji to three countries.

Thank you Ma’am! and Thank you others for joining! and Thank you all for being here today!

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